Washington Diplomat Coach Gordon Bradley said last week that the team's next four games would indicate whether the Dips would be legitimate contendets for the Easter Division crown of the NASL's National Conference.
Since then, the team has won two games to stretch its winning streak to three and picked up one point in the standings on the division-leading Cosmos [the spread is now 135-116]. The Dips go into tonight's contest against the Timbers ended Washington's 1978 season with a 2-1 overtime victory in the first round of the North American Soccer League Playoffs. Washington aided its own demise with a gift goal that got the Timbers on the scoreboard.
Tonight 11 p.m. [est] game is the only 1979 regular-season meeting between the two teams. The game will be televised by WTTG-TV-5 and broadcast on WTOP-1500.
The Diplomats are playing the second game of a three-match road series that ends Saturday against Minnesota.
The Timbers finished 20-10 last year and had the fourth-highest point total  in the league. But Portland has had a rough road lately, losing four straight and bringing up the rear of the National conference West race with a 7-12 mark for 71 points.
Timber goalkeeper Mick Poole was third in the league in goals allowed [1.16] in 1978, but the 24-year-old Briton has slumped to a standard of two goals permitted per outing.
Big forward Clyde Best [6-foot-2, 190] leads the team in scoring as usual [eight goals, three assists]. John Bain, who scored the deciding, overtime goal in last year's playoff win, and another midfielder, Jimmy Conway, each have four goals, with Conway, pacing the club with eight assists.
Washington's offense has been buoyed by the return of striker Alan Green after six games sideline with a pulled hamstring. The club, which scored only eight goals in the game Green missed, has tallied five in the two games Green has played in since his return. The striker leads the Dips in goals with 11. Joe Horvath is the assist pacesetter with 11.
Dip goalkeeper Bill Irwin [1.17 goals allowed] ranks second in the league.